There’s a lot of hype around the gig economy— it seems like we’re trying to Uberize just about everything—but freelancing is not exactly a new concept. People have worked as contractors and freelancers for a long time. The difference? Today’s technology.
At the heart of the gig economy is a smartphone application that expands our outreach potential to anyone with the same app, anywhere, anytime. Now, more than ever before, software and technology enables field service businesses to turn to a pool of workers to meet service demand.
This is even further encouraged by a workforce that is increasingly engaged in gig work. According to a Gallup poll, 36% of Americans are doing some amount of freelance work.
A look at BLS data also shows that the growth of freelance jobs has occurred in many industries that require field services.
What does this mean for your business? It could mean that there is an appetite among field technicians to work in a more independent capacity. But more clearly, there already are field service technicians out there working on a freelance basis, ready to join your team.
The gig economy is a well ready for tapping—if you’re looking to improve your business’ agility to deliver better customer service, go forth and tap.
3 things crowd service can do for your business
1. Reduce wait times
According to a survey conducted by Clicksoftware, when asked what they’d most like from their service experiences, most customers responded: Not wasting time waiting for an engineer or technician to arrive.
Tapping into crowd servicing has the potential to reduce wait times by increasing your labor pool on short notice. Especially when demand is unpredictable, a freelance technician may be able to take a service call when your full-time employees can’t.
2. Fix equipment before it crashes
If your field service management solution detects sudden abnormalities in performance and predicts an outage soon, you can look to technicians with flexible schedules to step in.
With the help of crowd servicing, you could ensure you have a tech addressing the issue before failure—saving your business a considerable amount of time and money. And using the internet of things to perform diagnoses and automate alerts can speed up issue detection and trigger a response even faster.
3. Improve customer service
Customer service is field service businesses’ top priority. If you can keep your customers happy by expanding the number of technicians you have available to them, why not do so?
Consider incorporating a solution that allows the customer to rate technicians, use those ratings to choose from available technicians, and get real-time updates on their arrival time. These features help keep your customers informed, engaged, and satisfied.
When is your company ready to consider crowd service?
Crowd service has the potential to benefit your business, but let’s not get caught up in the hype. Crowd service is not for everyone; you need to consider the complexity of the service your business provides and research the depth of that labor pool. The following are a few good reasons to seriously evaluate turning to the crowd:
Your business is looking to expand, but the availability of skilled field workers is one your main obstacles to doing so. With crowd service, you can search for freelance talent in specific areas where you need it the most.
For this purpose, training sessions are a great way to onboard your freelancers. Given more specific equipment or training, bring them onsite.
Inconsistent service demand
Many industries that provide field services experience fluctuating demand. Take HVAC for example—winter months are likely slow, while equipment failures increase over the summer when usage is at its peak.
These scenarios are common across many industries: According to a Blumberg Advisory Group survey, 64% of respondents cite the need for agility as the main reason why their companies turned to an agile workforce.
If your business experiences fluctuating demand, make sure you test using freelance workers before your busy season.
This could be your opportunity to attract the next generation of field service technicians. Candidates that are tech-savvy or have grown up with technology tend to have an easier transition into the tech-heavy field service operations.
As more field service businesses turn to AR and IoT to optimize their service, having tech-savvy workers available will be essential to keeping pace with your competitors.
In these cases, some companies have used short tests or quizzes to verify that freelancers meet their minimum requirements.
If a significant number of your expert technicians are retiring in the next year or two, you’re probably thinking about how to replace them. Tapping into the gig economy is a great way to replenish your dwindling workforce.
Using a crowd service model can mean bringing in new workers more quickly for routine service calls, while keeping your veteran technicians around for your most complex appointments.
Additionally, you can use augmented reality to further extend your top experts’ capacity. They can provide more inexperienced gig workers with remote guidance as they take on more service calls.
Take a hybrid approach to expand your labor pool
I’m not suggesting your company rely solely on on-demand work. After all, you need to make sure freelancers are on par with the level of service your business is providing to keep customer satisfaction high. But rather consider having a pool of field workers that consists of both full-time employees and freelance technicians.
The idea is that your full-time employees take care of the bulk of your work, while on-demand technicians can help with jobs that arise from variable factors—such as a new expansion, sudden surge in demand, or technically complex repairs.
Comprehensive field service management solutions are ideal, but they’re not the only way your business can tap into the gig economy. Online networks like SimplyHired, Upwork, Flexjobs, Indeed, or even LinkedIn could be good places to find talent.